Wednesday, 10 April 2013



By LinkedIn Corp.

Free App (basic membership is free, however different rates of membership are not free)

Available for Blackberry, Android, Kindle Fire HD, windows 8 mobile OS and iOS mobile platforms

LinkedIn is a social media cloud based professional networking tool, can be accessed from desktop via web browser or mobile app for any of the current smart device platform.   Yes it is professional career networking tool, very popular in the commercial world, so why I am blogging about the tool for education.   Well, quite simply it is the most effective alumina tool for course leaders, one that you can easily manage, administrate and utilise for communication.   One I have used for quite few years.

For start I prefer to use LinkedIn on my iPad than a browser on my desktop, as it is more user friendly.  The app enabled me to search more effectively for graduates from my course from over the last twelve years (I am course leader), and request to connect to them more easily.   There have been a number of benefits of building up a very large personal connection library of very course and institutionally loyal ex-graduates, the experience has been mutually beneficial:

·         I have been able to create course alumni enabling graduates to network with different graduate years, offer one another career opportunities, reconnect with lost friends and see how one another is progressing

·         It has enabled me gain an understanding of their career profiles and employers post graduation, which has been helpful for course marketing to next generation of students.

·         The graduates have been able to easily recruit placement students from myself from existing courses.

·         The graduates have been able to communicate with myself of graduate opportunities, that I have been able to pass onto our final year students.

·         When I needed guest speakers in different areas, a request to my connections meant I had an overwhelming response, in few days I had a semester worth of Guest Speakers.

·         The graduates who are now in a position of influence can share professional employability requirements of future graduates both in terms of technical (sorry my course is in technical area) skills and employability skills.

·         The graduates have been able to provide employer panel feedback on technical aspects of new course design for revalidation, subject areas that are up and coming need to be in the course design.

·         The graduates in position of influence had the opportunity to offer services, software and equipment to the University for our Courses at cost, free or competitive prices.

·         The graduates have offered to be mentors to existing students, powerful learning support methodology for students from low social economic backgrounds, [1] and potential method to develop students for graduate employment, [2]

To para phrase the advice given to my student (all levels) by a recent Guest Graduate Speaker;

“get yourself on LinkedIn, create a professional profile, connect with Anne and connect with them (Guest Speaker), start networking their career.”
Remember your students are graduates of tomorrow and future employers of your graduates.  LinkedIn quite simply is the ideal tool to make this happen to the benefit of the students, the graduates, the employers, the University and the Government statistics.

Anne Nortcliffe LinkedIn Profile:

I am digitally distinct! Visit 


[1] Layer, G. (2004) Widening participation and employabilityLTSN Generic Centre. Last accessed 9th April 2013 at ttp://

[2] Rizvi, I. A., & Aggarwal, A. (2005). Enhancing Student Employability: Higher Education and Workforce Development. In Proceedings of the 9th Quality in Higher Education Seminar, Birmingham, UK. Last accessed 9th April 2013 at

Tuesday, 9 April 2013



By Mendeley


Available official app on iOS, unofficial on Android (not provided by Mendeley)

Both apps are designed and aim to provide access to your reference library on Mendeley, both full reference details author, title, publication details and access to e-format of the reference.   App that is welcome addition, as I have been impressed with Mendeley since first day I was introduced to application shown’n’tell Mendeley facility at the British Library in London two summers ago.

In reality you need to have already setup Mendeley on-line at  The iOS app is not as user friendly as desktop version on PC, where you can install a web importer to work with your web browser, digitalizing the importing of your web references into your Mendeley library.   A functionality Diigo has provided for their app.   However, Mendeley does provide the mechanism to store full reference details oppose to publication title and URL address

I have been experimenting with this app for ALT-ocTEL MOOC, setting up a group library to assist registered users in collating the number of references being suggested by delegates on the MOOC.   Particularly as number of the references will be in long term valuable to the MOOC, but are becoming lost in the communication overload emails, tweets, blogs and forum replies.  

My experiences so far have identified that:

·        This app can only be used with regular and reliable internet connection wireless or 3G as you need to login and sync with Mendeley cloud.  

·       The app is essentially web browser interface to online Mendeley, and a poorer relative to the desktop app. 

·         You can use + function to add references, but as the iOS version does not provide web import function, the references have to be manually typed in or cut and pasted, more time consuming than the desktop version, but you can sync your entry back with the Mendeley library in the cloud.  

·         The app is a little flaky; iIf you click on settings button, despite whether you make a change or not to the settings, the user will find they are unable to access any of their references.   My temp’ solution is to logout and log back into the app, not ideal.    

In terms of flexibility, and as tool to assist in collating and organising your references that is full reference details and access to the articles into a  personal library or group library the app achieves these objectives, though not as user-friendly as the desktop app, but it is start.   It will help manage reference overload when you are submerged in the literature review of a project.  An app I think we should be encouraging our students, particularly the final year students to use during the project literature review to ensure dissertations reference sections provide full reference details oppose to bad habit of URLs in Bibliographies.  

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Smart Office

Smart Office 2.1
By Picsel
Available for Android and iOS mobile platforms
This app I think has gone up in price since I purchased the app last year.   Normally price changes are in the other direction, hey ho.   I purchased this app on the basis of recommendations by my students.   It was worth investing in this app, it provides software office functionality on your tablet and one the few apps that renders MS office documents as you intended them to be viewed when you designed and edited them in MS office applications on a PC.   With other apps I have found you lose graphic and text or definition, size, and location.  Still looses MS specific PowerPoint slide specific graphics if you embed them in slides.
Prior to a presentation, I always uploaded my presentation on to this app on my iPad from my email attachment.   This enables me to rehearse my presentation.   However, on a number on occasions I am grateful I have upload the presentation onto my iPad.   As in the last year at various events the desktop provided has failed for various hardware or network reasons.   I have been able to deftly resolve the issue by whipping out my iPad continue my slide show using Smart Office either connected to the projector or showing my iPad to the audience.   The latter of course only works where you have small audience, but has certainly saved my day.   
All documents can be imported from email attachments and cloud storage Google Doc, Box and DropBox locations.    You can edit cloud based documents on-line, but if you want to work off-line the documents have to be downloaded, but once edited the files cannot be backed up to the cloud storage from the mobile device.  The work around would be to email the file, transfer the file from your email account to a desktop to the cloud storage. 
One advantage of the app is that MS tables are less of issue to edit than in other word processing apps on the iOS platform.   Should be noted you only have basic word processing tools, but for reading and editing office documents on the go it is ideal.   

Saturday, 6 April 2013

MyScript Calculator

MyScript Calculator
By Vision Objects
Available Android OS from 2.1 to 4.1, iOS 6
The app is currently featured on the UK iPhone advert, one I discovered before Christmas.  A handwriting recognition calculator, app that enables the user to handwrite your mathematical expression in the app, the app recognizes your mathematical expression and calculates the result.  The MyScript Calculator is able to process all basic mathematical operations +,-, ÷,×, ±, 1/x, %, √, x!, |X|, to power, exponentials, natural logs, logs, trigonometry and inverse trigonometry, brackets whole or parts of an expressions, and constants π, ℮, φ.   You can erase out part or all of the expression and undo.  
MyScript Calculator can only solve expression s for one unknown variable, so you cannot express multivariable expressions of x and y variables.   However, if you have values for all variables except  one you can use the app to calculate the output of an expression and check that output is realistic for the all the other variable values/settings.   The app enables users to digitalise their working out of mathematical expressions, check their understanding of the mathematics and the output of derivatives.   I have recommended this app to my students, who were impressed when I demonstrated it’s potential.
The app provides users with the visual element of the mathematical calculations, oppose to the black box experience of using an ordinary calculator of punching in numbers, operations and the calculator spewing out an output.   My Script Calculator enables the user to check they have entered the right expression and their understanding of the output derived by the calculator, plus quicker than using conventional calculator.  
In teaching context the app can be projected onto the white board or apple TV.   In class the app can be used to show to learners the whole expression and subsequent computed result and enabling you to explain the sequence of the operations that have occurred.   Visualizing  for the learner the theoretical concepts of the whole approach, instead of the black box operational approach of number crunching in a number calculator, supporting pedagogy approach opposing to hindering. 

Friday, 5 April 2013

Explain Everything

Explain Everything

By Morriscooke and Constructivist Toolkit LLC


Available on iPad

Screencasting app for iPad. an app tool personally I have been needing for a while, very aptly named.   You can import images from camera roll, iTunes, and files from Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, webDAV, box.   You can also open email attachment documents in the app.   Each import into a project becomes a new presentation slide.

Linking your iPad to screen projector, you can use this app explain your thoughts on the imported document or image.   Essentially turning your iPad into the iWhiteboard, the app provides users with the functionality that enables you to make your presentation more dynamic, the ability to;

·         move the document around in the slide;

·         point to items in the document using a mimic laser pointer;

·         add arrows, text, hand-drawn images and text/equations;

·         record your screen activity and your voice during the presentation;

·         export the recording as a MP4 file or a Explain Everything project to Camera Roll, iTunes, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, WebDAV, box to email

The latter two functionalities are the pista al resistance as can provide academics the means to provide screencast feedback from an iPad.   As screencast feedback produced on a desktop using Jing by TechSmith has been found by staff and students to be;

·         a medium that provides greater explanation and meaning of the feedback,[1];

·         preferable to written feedback and encourages deep learner engagement in the feedback,[2].  

The reflection of one of my student recipients of the screencast feedback generated using Explain Everything, exported and shared using Google drive;

“it was very helpful and it was a good way to explain what I needed to do, over the internet”

From my perspective I noted that any detailed screencast that is more than a couple minutes can take between to 10-20 minutes for the app to prepare and compress the MP4.   In addition any screencast longer than 4 minutes, the resultant MP4 will exceed 8Mb and will fail to export.   Thus limiting how much feedback one can provide and increasing the time spent in generating the feedback.

Therefore, in my world it will not replace use of Jing (free limited desktop software) or Camtasia (paid version that is comprehensive in features) by TechSmith on my desktop where I can prepare and export more efficiently timely and qualitative screencast feedback or presentations that can be emailed or uploaded to Blackboard for my students.  

However, it is an alternative for when I am away from my desktop.  That is if I have time to prepare and export such feedback to either email or Google drive to be shared with my students.   Explain Everything on the iPad for this activity just does not quite have the flexibility of Tablet PC with Camtasia and MS word with inking functionality, [3], but it is start.   But it is start when I am trying to ensure timely feedback to project students on their dissertations whilst I am away from my desk.  At the end of day rationale for adopting any technology is that it should enable the teacher to provide timely learning and feedback to support student’s determined pace of learning, [4] in case of dissertation draft feedback usually here and right now please.


[1] Edwards, K., Dujardin, A. F., & Williams, N. (2012). Screencast Feedback for Essays on a Distance Learning MA in Professional Communication. Journal of Academic Writing, 2(1), 95-126. last accessed 3rd April 2013 at
[2] Hope, S. A. (2011). Making Movies: The Next Big Thing in Feedback?. Bioscience Education, 18, 4. last accessed 3rd April 2013 at
[3] O’Malley, P. (2012). Screencasting and a Tablet PC–an indispensable technology combination for physical science teaching and feedback in higher and further education. last accessed 3rd April 2013 at
[4] Skinner, B. F. (1954)  “Teaching machine and programmed learning”, [online] last presented by B.F. Skinner . From YouTube last accessed 4th April 2013 l at

Thursday, 4 April 2013


By Any.Do
Available on iOS and Android, Web 5.0
An app that is popular with my students for organising their assessment world, as one student highlighted:
“Quicker than calendar App, calendar app as requires lot more more info'.”
It is a task list app, where tasks can be entered by speech (speech recognition is excellent, no training) or type, allocate the deadline date, time and to a folder.   Also, you can assign a task to a location alert for when you arrive or depart a location, however to gain this feature unfortunately you need to invite a number of colleagues or friends to consider using the app.   
Once a task item is set, you can;
·         add further notes via speech or type;
·         set as important or note;
·         email share. 
The latter is useful for group tasks and assessment, ensuring everyone is clear of deadlines.   You can snooze the alarms for an hour, reset for following day or new date and time.   In addition sync with Chrome on your desktop.   However, with sale of tablets to exceed desktops this year in the UK,[1], the latter functionality will become surplus to the alarm requirements.   Useful tool for organising your personal and work life.

[1] Ahmed, M. (2013) Tablet computers swallow desktop, The Times, 28th March 2013, last accessed 2nd April 2013 at

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation
By Nuance Communications
Available for Android and iOS mobile platforms
Press record speak, press stop moments later your dictation is typed before eyes, no training is required.   This was an app my students excitedly showed me four years ago recommended as a must have app.   I have to agree one of the best recommended apps and one I recommend to others students and academics alike.  However, over the last week I have asked my students to see if anyone is using the app currently.   None of them were aware of the app, I personally teach over 200 students.   Their understanding of Dragon Dictation has been colored by the desktop version which needs lengthy training.   So my students are now currently checking it out.    Feedback from one student who downloaded it before Easter 2013;
"I must say it is a good app to have when taking quick notes, possibly better for reminders, just something quick to use for small notes.  However, as I take a lot of notes and large notes this kind of app is not good, a Dictaphone would be better for me. So personally I think Dragon Dictation is a good app to have for a busy person just to make quick notes and reminders but when it comes to large notes it's not very good."

The app itself can be set to provide dictation for a wide variety of languages, but it does not cope very well with non-native less than fluent speakers of a language, the typed dictation consequently is a poor match to what was actually said.  However, native speakers of a language with or without an accent dragon dictate produces very accurate typed dictation.
As a dyslexic this has become a valuable tool, it is inevitable I can pronounce a word, but I cannot even begin to know how spell a word, the first three letters tend to elude me.   By far the quickest solution is to speak into Dragon Dictation, hey presto one written word I have been seeking ready to be cut and pasted into the written text.   However, Siri on iPhone  4S and 5 is as just as capable, particularly if you ask Siri how to spell a word or what a words means, Siri brings up a dictionary page of the word with the spelling and definition, so you can check you are using the right word and in context, very helpful for a dyslexic
For teaching purposes dragon dictate has enabled me to provide written feedback prepared as audio feedback on an assessment for students who are hard of hearing.   The app has enabled me to still express my feedback in usual audio format, but provide it in an accessible format as required by the disabled student as in accordance and in fulfillment of their learning contract.
However, it should be noted the app has its limitations as highlight by my student you can only record a few seconds of audio at a time to be transcribed.   Therefore the process of dictating a large paragraph of text is rather start, stop, start, but still it is an effective tool, but without all the hassle of training the tool in the first place.  
I have colleague who uses the app to quickly transcribe conference delegates’ handwritten conference questions, with quick cut and paste the text can be posted on the conference Wordpress site.   The whole process takes a faction of the time than typing on a mobile device.